I’ve written about the most recent incident last week, and laid out how all the usual arguments for why we can’t do anything about mass shootings have been trotted out by other industries and proved incorrect a while ago: They used to insist that drunk driving couldn’t be reduced either. I had some more stuff I was going to follow up with, but almost everything I wanted to say is summed up by Emma Gonzalez, one of the survivors of last week’s school shooting in Parkland, Florida: Teen who survived massacre rips Trump to pieces in emotional takedown. I’m just going to quote a bunch of that article:
[S]he responded directly to Trump’s tweet, which blamed students at the school for not reporting on the shooter’s behavior before the event.
“We did,” Gonzalez said, “time and time again, since he was in middle school.”
“We need to pay attention to the fact that this isn’t just a mental health issue,” she continued. “He wouldn’t have harmed that many students with a knife.”
“How about we stop blaming the victims for something that was the shooter’s fault?” she demanded, and called out those who do deserve to shoulder that blame.
“[The people] who let him buy the guns in the first place. Those at the gun shows. The people who encouraged him to buy accessories for his guns to make them fully automatic. The people who didn’t take them away from him when they knew that he expressed homicidal tendencies. And I am not talking about the FBI. I am talking about the people that he lived with, I’m talking about the neighbors who saw him outside holding guns.”
The NRA gave $30,000,000 dollars to the Trump Presidential campaign alone, not to mention the tens of millions to various senators and congresspeople. Last year, when Congress passed a law making it easier for mentally ill people to buy guns (and Cadet Bonespur signed it), the NRA sent out a bulletin to all of its members bragging about it.
The NRA routinely pours millions into defeating laws that NRA members themselves claim to support. When gun sales plummeted last year after Cadet Bonespur was inaugurated, they spent a bunch of money producing advertisements that portrayed Black Lives Matters protesters and such as dangerous violent people. The ads were blatant calls for white supremacists to buy more guns and prepare for a race war.
The NRA as an organization is demonstrably not promoting responsible gun ownership and hasn’t been for decades. It’s only goals are to protect and increase gun manufacturer profit; and if any of its leaders aren’t racist (a highly difficult proposition to prove), they are all absolutely fine fanning the flames of racial fear to keep the money rolling in.
So, anyone still supporting them is supporting an organization that sees mass murders of children and racial tension as marketing tools. You aren’t nobly defending a moral principle if you support them.
It’s time to end this bloody charade.
I have often found myself in weird discussions/arguments with people who assume that because I favor many extremely liberal policies, I must be one of those evil anti-gun people. So before I get into this tale, let me begin by saying that I used to be a card-carrying member of the NRA. I have owned guns. I have fired guns. I have almost never fired guns on a gun range, because we didn’t have many in the Rocky Mountain towns where I grew up. I was taught how to shoot a gun by being taken out into the wilderness by my father and grandfather and firing it for a couple of hours at various things we set up as targets. Then after the third of fourth weekend of doing that being told I needed to go shoot a rabbit or two if I wanted to eat that night.
Long before we got to that point there had been many, many gun safety lectures, because there were lots of guns (mostly hunting rifles) in the homes of most of my extended family. I knew how to take apart, clean, and put back together a bolt-action rifle and how to re-load bullet cases (by which I mean, measure out gunpowder, put it into a spent casing, align a new bullet and insert it with a hand operated press, and install a primer cap) years before I was allowed to hold a loaded gun and shoot it.
There were winters when the only reason there was enough food on the table for the whole family was because some of us had gotten a deer or elk during the appropriate season (not to mention rabbits, pheasants, and grouse). I should also mention that I was raised to look down my nose in disdain at people who hunted pheasant and other birds with a shotgun. As my Grandpa said, “If you can’t hit a flying grouse or dove or pheasant with a rifle, you have no business pointing a gun at anything.”
I should also mention, in case it isn’t obvious from the part about learning how to turn spent cartridges back into bullets, missing was considered wasteful. We couldn’t afford to waste a lot of bullets getting the food.
But as the title of this post suggests, today I need to tell you the story of Great-grandma’s Gun… Read More…
Yes, occasionally the press will focus on the shooter’s history of domestic abuse, as they are doing with the Texas shooter right now. But even then they keep saying how we will never know why he did it.
It’s right there. The history of abuse tells us plenty.
Not just about the Texas church shooter, but for other mass shooters. Time and again we find a history of domestic abuse. If you go find those interviews of the people who describe the shooters as quiet, you’ll also notice hints in the quotes to other traits of abusive people. They’ll say something like the person had a dark sense of humor when he did speak up. Or they’ll say he had a wicked tongue when someone got his dander up. But they’ll hasten to say how those moments were rare, and he only acted that way when he was provoked.
There are a few things going on here. First, we’ve all been socialized not to speak ill of the dead; the rationale being that this event is so painful for the family of the shooter, you don’t want to make them feel worse by truthfully describing what a sullen, angry, antisocial person their loved one was. That’s why you’ll sometimes see one or two candid interviews early, and then the same people will claim their comments were taken out of context. Seeing what they said in black and white and realizing the shooter’s family have seen it, too causes people to clam up.
Another part happens before this. There is a tendency to decide when someone in your social circle says something angry or hurtful that they are just joking. He didn’t really mean it when he said, “Someday someone’s going to sock you right in the mouth when you say stupid stuff like that.” Or the time he said, “If someone put a bullet between the eyes of every one of those bleeding heart lazy assholes, the world would be a better place.” Or the time he said, “You know none of those perverts have never worked an honest day in their life. If they all died nothing of value would be lost.” He was just teasing, we tell ourselves. He wasn’t actually threatening anyone or seriously wishing anyone dead.
So later, when he actually goes out and puts bullets in people, the folks that knew him talk about the dark sense of humor and so forth. They don’t want to think that the missed warning signs (which they did).
Abusers believe that the people they abuse deserve it. They believe that when anyone does anything that irritates them, or doesn’t conform to their ideas of how people behave that they are doing so with malicious intent toward the abuser. It can’t be that those other people are simply interested in different things, the abuser believes. They must be doing it to annoy him. That’s why abusers yell, “See what you made me do?” at their victims. They blame everything on other people. Everything, including their own unhappiness. If other people seem to be happy when the abuser isn’t, it’s because those other people are laughing at his expense, or irritating him on purpose, or causing other unpleasant things to happen the he has to deal with, and so on.This is also one of the reasons why increasing mental health resources (the only thing that Republicans are willing to pretend to be willing to do after a mass shooting) isn’t going to do anything for the problem. The abuser doesn’t think anything is wrong with him. They’re never going to seek treatment for their anger and resentment. The few who do get ordered into anger management type programs (usually as a way to avoid felony charges after an abuse incident that got them arrested—and thereby letting them in most states retain their right to buy firearms) think of the treatment as punishment and a joke. They aren’t going to make a serious effort to change.
Another thing abusers do is target the loved ones of the people they are actually angry at. We see this in domestic abuse all the time. If punishing the spouse doesn’t seem to be making the the changes they want, then they’ll punish the kids or a family pet in order to hurt and motivate the primary victim. It serves the dual purpose of making all the frequent victims hostages to get what he wants, but it also hurts in a different way than a direct attack.
So in a situation like the Texas church shooter: he was angry at his wife and his mother-in-law. His mother-in-law attended that church. His wife also had connections to the church. Everyone there was either someone who his wife and mother-in-law cared for, or had provided mental and spiritual support to the wife and mother-in-law, or they were happy people when he (the abuser) was unhappy. It’s been reported he took his kids to a social event at the church just five days before the shooting. He may have already been planning the shooting. He may not have gotten that specific. The issue is that he was a violent, angry man who had many times before used violence to try to make people in his life do what he wanted, or to punish them for not being what he wanted. Going to the festival was a way to find out more about the mother-in-law who was, in his mind, interfering with his happiness. The more he knew, the more likely he’d be able to force a change.
And even in the case where specific people don’t have a connection to anyone he is angry at right now, remember, the abuser thinks that all of his problems are other people’s fault. He likely had a wide variety of definitions of the kinds of people he blamed for specific things in the world that he didn’t like. Seemingly random people at an event like that are “those kind” of people in his mind.
The motives are easy to fathom, if you take just a few minutes to learn about how abusers think.
Edited to Add:
A couple of things came across my feed after I wrote this. Well worth your time:
I’m on a mini vacation, so I haven’t been paying as much attention to the news as usual since posting last Friday’s round up of links. So one of the first things I looked at when waking up this morning was my blog site, where I saw a whole bunch of hits on one of my posts from June 2016: Why thoughts and prayers are worse than inadequate which filled me with dread. It did not take long to find comments and news articles about the shooting in Vegas: Las Vegas shooting: At least 58 dead, 515 hurt in Mandalay Bay shooting.
I could rant about the usual suspects saying now is not to time to discuss control, and the usual BS about thoughts and prayers.
I’ve already said so much on the topic of gun violence and our society’s refusal to do anything about it: They used to insist that drunk driving couldn’t be reduced, either and Oh, lord, the leaping! and #TwoMenKissing and why the Orlando Pulse shooting was a punch in my gut…
I’m angry. I’ll be calling my congresspeople (even though they’re all progressive Democrats). But I’m not going to write about this yet again. I’m feeling a lot like Alvin McEwen of the Holy Bullies and Headless Monsters news blog: “I can’t preach or talk about anything in my usual critical stance, folks. Nor do I feel like putting out news briefs. God, I feel so very bad over the entire thing. It’s a kind of sadness that takes away all of your purpose and makes you ask why. Nothing else. Just why. But I find that when things like this happen, it helps to let the feeling wash over you. Don’t try to keep them inside. And do something light.”
So, I’m going to go do something light before getting back to work
The killer’s own father said that his son had been ranting for weeks about how angry he was to see gay men kissing each other in public. He spent weeks using a fake profile on a gay hook-up app quizzing gay men to determine which gay club would have the biggest crowd and which night of the week it would be busiest. It was an anti-gay hate crime. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t also terrorism, because that’s what all hate crimes are: the intent is to instill terror in the targeted community by singling out individuals for bashing or worse.
I wrote shortly after the massacre to explain why this crime hit me so hard even though I live on the other side of the continent and don’t personally know anyone killed. My whole life I’ve lived with the fear and knowledge that there are people who hate queers enough to attack me and kill me, but I haven’t often had to think of that hatred being a danger to those around me. The killer’s father isn’t the only one who talked about what had enraged his son. Others who knew the killer have talked about his increasingly angry outbursts about gay people. Seeing two men kiss made him go kill 49 people in a busy gay nightclub during Pride month.
It’s one thing to know that bigots hate me enough to kill me. It’s much worse to be shown that some hate me enough to commit a massacre.
And it’s upsetting to know that some people who claim to be friends—and relatives who have said they love me—are unable or unwilling to understand that this killer’s actions are a symptom of society’s messed up attitudes about queer people and about guns.
That is what people who claim this is just one lone nut, or that it isn’t really about queer people, or that there is nothing society can do that will make these crimes less likely to happen are actually saying.
One year later, it’s still a gut punch.
It leaves one wondering what we can do.
- There are organizations you can donate to: Scissor Sisters and MDNR honor Pulse victims with ‘Swerlk’ lyric video: Proceeds from the song’s sales and royalties will be donated to the Contigo Fund which, “offers financial support to organizations working to heal, educate and empower LGBTQ and Latinx individuals, immigrants and people of color, as well as those working to end all forms of bigotry in Central Florida”.
- We can attend memorials: Thousands Expected At Pulse Memorial Events In Orlando.
- You can commit to acts of kindness and urge others to: Elected officials on Monday announced that June 12 officially would be dedicated as “Orlando United Day — A Day of Love and Kindness.”.
- We can remember the victims: Orlando Sentinel Marks One-Year Anniversary of Pulse Nightclub Massacre: In print, a special 16-page section; online, free access for all.
- We can try to help the healing process: Faces of healing, one year after the Pulse Nightclub massacre.
Mostly, please just recognize that this was a hate crime, fueled by our society’s abhorrence of gay people and helped by our irrational obsession with prioritizing gun rights over human rights. It wasn’t an act of anti-american terrorism. It wasn’t merely the actions of one disturbed individual. It is a symptom of very American dysfunction. It is a hate crime, and all hate crimes are meant to instill terror in the hearts of the targeted community. If you are a straight person who still insists this wasn’t an anti-gay hate crime, please answer this question honestly: was this crime a gut punch of terror for you? Was it?
I have been relieved that most of the coverage of this crime focused on the victims. Too often the coverage of mass shootings focus so much on the perpetrator that it’s as if he’s a hero, instead of a despicable excuse for a human being. I think I have managed, despite writing about this incident many times, never mention to the name of the killer. Instead, we need to honor the memories of those slain: Orlando nightclub shooting: Read about the victims.
Edited to Add: Several people have written very eloquently about the day:
A crime that is still being prosecuted: Orlando Nightclub Shooter’s Widow Is Denied Release On Bail.
I’ve written before about why this particular crime hit so hard for queer people in general, and me in particular. I’ve also written about why it is unacceptable to argue there is nothing that we can do about this kind of crime: They used to insist that drunk driving couldn’t be reduced, either. I’ve also written about why we shouldn’t ignore the anti-LGBT hate crime aspect of this act of terror, and why the people who do so are perpetuating and enabling the hate that caused it.
And I’m not the only one: Call the Orlando shooting what it was: a homophobic hate crime, not ‘an attack on us all’.
I didn’t let myself write about the shooting on the 7th- or 8th-month’s mind1 date of the shooting because the lingering depression from election night made it too easy for me to leap into slathering rages over things. I had a very difficult time writing a post at the 6-month mark because of it. But there are reasons we shouldn’t forget: Gov. Rick Scott Honored Pulse But Never Mentioned LGBT People – Florida’s governor described the shooting as terrorism and never noted it targeted queer people.
I’ve gotten into the spiral of argument with some people that all hate crimes are crimes intended to cause terror, so it is technically correct to call it a terrorist act. And while that is true, it sidesteps the issue of just who was the crime intended to terrorize? We know that the gunman was targeting queer men. We know that because of all the angry outraged rants his family and colleagues have revealed during questioning. We know because he told his wife that he wanted to kill fags (she knew what he was planning, which is why she’s under arrest). We know because of the conversations he had on hookup apps where he would engage in conversation with gay men and ask which clubs were the hottest—where can he go to find the biggest crowds, the most popular places for gay men to have a good time?
He did not commit this crime to terrorize straight Americans. He was out to kill as many queer men as he could, and to put the fear of death into all queer people not to be out. That’s the point of this crime: to make queer people hide, go back into the closet, stop being out and open and unashamed of who we love. And if you don’t refer to this crime as an anti-queer or anti-gay or anti-LGBT crime, then you are doing exactly what the gunman wanted: you are erasing us from public life and discourse.
And if you get insistent and defensive about failing to mention that it was a anti-queer crime? That tells us, beyond any shadow of a doubt, that on some level, you agree with the gunman.
That’s not me calling you a bigot. That’s you being a bigot.
If you don’t like to think of yourself as a bigot, then you need to do something about that. A really good first step is to admit that being uncomfortable denouncing a crime as an anti-queer/anti-gay/anti-lesbian/anti-LGBT/anti-trans crime is a symptom of some level of prejudice. Which you need to let go of. Start calling this shooting what it was: a hate crime aimed at the LGBT community.Yes, 49 people were killed in Orlando that night. 49 queer Americans were gunned down. 49 queer people who just wanted to be out and happy and not have to hide who they were instead were murdered. 49 queer people were murdered by a man who was outraged at the idea of two men kissing in public. Remember them. Don’t erase their identities. Don’t erase their killer’s anti-gay hatred. Don’t ignore the toxic homophobia the pervades American society and fed the gunman’s hatred. Don’t help the killer erase us. Don’t.
1. “Month’s mind” a practice in some traditions where family and friends gather about a month after someone’s death to celebrate that person’s life2.
2. Yes, I’m pedantic enough that I don’t like using the word “anniversary” to refer to periods of time of less than a year. I know people have been doing it verbally since at least the 1960s, and in writing since the 1980s, and I’m not normally a staunch prescriptionist regarding dictionary definitions, but this one still bugs me a little. Most of the terms that have been proposed to substitute (mensiversary, lunaversay, and uncianniversary) for this monthly commemorations strike me as silly. But knowing that there is an older, if obscure liturgical term, that I can pronounce it easily, I’m going to give it a try.
I’ve written before about why this particular crime hits so hard for queer people in general, and me in particular. I’ve also written about why we shouldn’t ignore the hate crime aspect of this act of terror, and why the people who do so are perpetuating and enabling the hate that caused it. I’ve also written about why it is unacceptable to argue there is nothing that we can do about this kind of crime: They used to insist that drunk driving couldn’t be reduced, either.
All of those things are still true. And with hate crimes on the rise since November 8, even more heart wrenching.
Please take to heart the words in the graphic I included at the top of this post: “Every time you let a homophobic or transphobic joke or slur pass, you tell the speaker that you condone their speech, and you help perpetuate a culture in which hatred of LGBTQIA people is acceptable and in which violence against LGBTQIA people is inevitable.” That’s not an exaggeration. If our very existence is nothing more than a joke, that implies our lives and deaths don’t matter. Those attacks and dismissals perpetuate the lie that we deserve pain and suffering. They perpetuate the lie that we shouldn’t exist. They perpetuate the lie that our love isn’t real.
And all of those lies add up to one message that some angry people are all too ready to take to heart: that beating us, shooting us, and killing us isn’t really a crime.
Last week I very intentionally didn’t do a Weekend Update post to supplement the previous day’s Friday Links post. I was feeling as if I was spending every Saturday morning writing about a few headlines that caught my eye later Friday. When maybe a better use of my time would be working on my fiction, or housework, or other things that actually gets something done that needs doing, y’know?
Then we got out of the movie last night, and one friend who had just turned his phone back on tells us that there was a shooting at a mall in a town about an hour’s drive north of where we were. There was almost no information available last night, and this morning there still isn’t really much: Cascade Mall shooting: Mayor vows to ‘bring the son of a bitch to justice’.
They have some really low-res blurry pictures of a generic looking dark haired guy wearing a very generic looking maybe black t-shirt and maybe black cargo shorts. They originally put out the APB for a “hispanic male wearing gray,” but if the pictures are any indication the only part of that which might be accurate is the shooter’s gender presentation.
Seriously, I know Seattle area men who come form a long line of Norwegians who look exactly like that guy. Heck! I used to know a lesbian firefighter (who was sometimes mistaken for a guy) whose ancestors came from Switzerland and England who looked just like that guy.
Some of the news sources are reporting this as the sixth mass shooting in Washington state this year. Another source said seven, and then lists them, but there are only five total in the list. Also of note only to my fellow pedants: one of the shootings they’re counting had only two victims, another had only three. The FBI still doesn’t have an official criteria for a mass shooting, but most people compiling statistics start with the FBI’s definition of mass murder (four people killed in a single incident, not counting the perpetrator), and count anything with four people shot as a mass shooting.
I don’t know what to say.
Except this (which I think needs to be repeated every time a story of some situation like this happens): unless you have the skills, temperament, and wherewithal to be a responsible gun owner (i.e., ensure that guns are always securely stored when not in use; they are kept clean and otherwise maintained; you regularly practice not merely shooting the thing but loading it, unloading it, checking its working parts before using it, working the safety; et cetera, et cetera, et cetera), don’t go buy a gun. Statistically, you will not be safer. Statistically, everyone around you will be less safe. That’s a fact.
They’ve begun releasing autopsy reports of the victims of the Pulse nightclub massacre in Orlando: Most Pulse victims shot multiple times, first autopsies show. It was nearly two months ago, on June 12, that the killer snuck a gun into a busy gay night club on Latino night and opened fire, killing 49 people and wounding many others. In that time we’ve had Republican politicians express false sympathy, then days later vote down gay rights protections. We’ve had people try to claim that the act wasn’t an anti-gay crime. We’ve had people gin up evidence (which has been thoroughly debunked) that the killer was secretly gay himself. We’ve had people and politicians try to claim the killer was part of an organized Islamic terrorist organization, and that has been thoroughly debunked as well.
And a lot of people have moved on.
Some of us can’t. As I wrote before, one reason it’s so difficult for me is because my whole life I’ve lived with the fear and knowledge that there are people who hate queers enough to attack me and kill me, but I haven’t often had to think of the hatred of me being a danger to those around me. The killer’s own father said that his son had become disproportionately angry about seeing two men kissing in public over a week before the incident. Others who knew the killer have talked about his increasingly angry outbursts about gay people. Seeing two men kiss made him go kill 49 people in a busy gay nightclub during Pride month.
It’s one thing to know that bigots hate me enough to kill me. It’s another to realize some hate me enough to commit a massacre.
And it’s upsetting to know that some people who claim to be friends, and relatives who have said they love me, are completely incapable of understanding that this killer’s actions are a symptom of society’s messed up attitudes about queer people and about guns. And that’s what people are saying when they claim this is just one lone nut. Or that this isn’t really about queer people. Or that there is nothing society can do that will make these events less likely to happen. So, yeah, it’s upsetting to be told to my face that someone else’s right to sell assault weapons to a person with a history of domestic violence (despite even a majority of NRA members expressing the opinion that people convicted of such crimes shouldn’t be able to legally purchase guns) is more important than protecting the lives of people like me.
One of the other things we don’t think about in our haste to move on after an event like this is just how long the aftermath is. It’s been nearly two months, and they’re still working on the autopsies. The reports just now released are only the first part of the analysis. Experts won’t be able to begin to do a thorough incident analysis until all of the rest of the autopsy reports are complete, and then the work of coordinating those with all the other evidence and reports begins of trying to understand what happened in there.
And there’s so much more. A lot of money has been raised to help the survivors and victims. And the hard work of figuring out how to distribute the money is just beginning: Pulse survivors seek answers from $23 million OneOrlando Fund. And it isn’t going to be easy: The Costs Of The Pulse Nightclub Shooting.
People are still trying to decide what to do about the location itself: Mayor and owner want to turn Orlando nightclub Pulse into a memorial for the 49 killed.
There is uplifting news related to this. Some of the more severely wounded survivors are getting better: Pulse victim dances for first time after being shot multiple times. Seriously, go watch the two videos. They will do your soul good.
And please, don’t forget the people who died: Read about the victims.